The best parks in West Linn, Oregon

Some people ask, why move to West Linn? Here’s one reason why: When we were getting ready to move two years ago, we were looking for a welcoming neighborhood in a family-friendly city. So when we began exploring West Linn, Oregon, we knew we found home. It has an incredible school district, access to the outdoors, a small-town feel outside Portland—and a wealth of parks. We love to spend time outdoors as a family, and as soon as we bought a home and moved, we began exploring the best parks in West Linn.

There are so many great outdoor spots to play, we could hardly choose a favorite. It’s just as well, because mixing it up keeps my kids happy! When I get the girls packed up and tell them we’re going to the playground, they ask, “Which park, Mama?” Will it be the one with the dinosaur skeleton? Or the one with the giant rocks you can climb in the splash pad? Or the one with the two-story high slide built into the hill?

So many choices!!!

The best parks in West Linn, Oregon, outside Portland // family travel // Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Rainy day things to do in Portland with kids

The other day, as my kids were scream-fighting over a bouncy ball and I was hiding behind the kitchen island/taking a lie-down on the floor, I realized I had not been beyond a one-block radius of my house in seven days. Here I was, getting a very close-up view of all the crumbs along the baseboards, because I hadn’t done anything outside the home in a week. I know I’m not the only rainy day stir-crazy mom out there, so for all y’all desperate parents, I thought I’d put together a resource list of indoor kids activities in Portland, Oregon and the Portland metro area.

Many of these places we have tried; others I can’t wait to visit. And there are indoor kids activities in this overflowing-with-fun list for just about every flavor: activities for toddlers, preschoolers, big kids—and even parents who may or may not want a mimosa on a weekday. (Hey-o!)

Arts studios that will clean up mashed clay for you? Check.

Restaurants that include play places (and aren’t McDonald’s)? Check.

Gyms that encourage your kids to literally climb the walls? Check.

These indoor kids activities in Portland equal your sanity-saving plan for all the rainy, snowy, sleety weather we still have to endure. Winter, eat your heart out, ’cause this family is now prepared with plenty of indoor family activities that don’t include lying facedown on the floor.

55 of the best ideas of indoor kids activities in Portland, Oregon, including restaurants, museums, play gyms, arts and crafts studios and more! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

What to do between Portland and Spokane: Road trip with kids

In the late spring, my younger sister had a beautiful baby girl. I tried to be all level-headed about giving her new family space, not crowding her with visitors, etc etc etc but on the inside I was all, OMG LET ME AT THAT BABY!

We planned a road trip to Spokane to visit just as soon as we could. I booked an AirBnB and sent an exclamation-point heavy series of texts to my sister. Then—I realized I’d have to drive nearly six hours from Portland to Spokane. With two kids.

Me: …

All my googling found, well, not a whole lot between here and there. But if you happen to make that road trip, here’s what to do between Portland and Spokane, especially if you have kids.

Going on a family road trip in Oregon and Washington this summer? Here's what to do between Portland and Spokane - especially with kids! Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

The three sweetest words

Toddler says I love youThe sun shone down on us in one of those perfect spring days that makes you wish you could stop time. Peeper had insisted on wearing her sunglasses “like mama,” so she was looking especially cool as she flew back in forth in the swing and stomped over a bridge.

Later, she climbed into a shaded play structure—the ones in the sun were too hot—and was crawling through the tunnel that led from the stairs to the slide. I ducked below the tube and popped my head up to the tiny windows in the tunnel. “Peekaboo!” I exclaimed, and I blew raspberries at her.

She giggled, squealed and looked for me again and again. Soon enough she was blowing (much spittier) raspberries back at me.

Then, out of nowhere, she told me, “I love you.” The unprompted declaration took my breath away, but in a flash the moment—and my daughter—were gone. She crawled the rest of the way through the tube, and I had to rush to take my place to catch her at the bottom of the slide.

“I love you”—the three sweetest words in our language, especially coming from a tiny voice that can’t pronounce its ls yet. Granted, she had spit bubbles dripping off her chin, but that lack of pretense made her gift even more special.

Even now, my heart catches remembering that simple phrase. Strangers and friends remark on what a talker my daughter is, and she spouts fully formed sentences with correct pronouns and tenses all day long. But those three words—“I love you”—were more precious than anything she’s uttered so far.

I love you, too, sweet pea.

20 months

Peeper’s jump from 19 to 20 months hit me hard.

I was in my hotel room while on a business trip when my mom emailed me a video of Peeper. Whereas Austin was foggy, rainy and cold, Portland had the kind of weather that just begged to be enjoyed outside. So Nana and Peeper had spent most of the day at the park near our house.

I clicked the video and watched as Peeper climbed a set of stairs, sat down at the top of the slide and zoomed down—all. by. herself. She looked so grown-up navigating the playground that the realization hit me like a two-ton steer: Peeper is big.

Toddler backpack - Ten Thousand Hour MamaMaybe it took a little distance to gain the perspective that she has become such an independent toddler. Now, if you don’t have kids, the feat of sliding solo might not seem so impressive. But it wasn’t that long ago that Peeper was unsteady on her feet; a short time before that, I celebrated when she could sit up by herself. I can still feel that warm, floppy newborn weight in my arms from even before that.

What a contrast to today.

This 20-month-old Peeper doesn’t often let me forget that she’s leaving babyhood far in the dust. She runs down hills and climbs over big rocks, flashing me a triumphant smile when she gets to the top.

cannon beach - Ten Thousand Hour MamaReading Busy Town - Ten Thousand Hour MamaPlaying with bubbles - Ten Thousand Hour MamaShe works to get what she wants, too. When, for example, she asks for a song at dinner, I explain that I can’t exactly sing with my mouth full and that “Old MacDonald” will have to wait. “Sing a song,” she repeats. Then, “Mama sing a song. How about Dada sing a song? Sing a song right now. Sing a song meantime? How about sing a song!” She’s as focused as a border collie with a tennis ball.

She’s not all single-minded independence, though—at least not yet. She still snuggles on my lap and wants to be held. Even if her requests of “Up, Mama!” are exasperating while I’m trying to cobble together dinner, I’m grateful that she still craves closeness.

This is the back-and-forth she and I will navigate. One minute, she’ll be tromping around the playground without my help. Then the next minute, she’ll whoosh down the slide—into my arms. Oceanside Toddler - Ten Thousand Hour MamaToddler Sandy River Delta - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Motherhood this week

“I should remember this.”

The thought strikes me every day as Peeper does something funny or sweet or ridiculous, yet I don’t keep a baby book and I haven’t updated my Peeper journal for months. I’m afraid all the tiny moments will slip into oblivion while I mark only the big ones.

Here, then, are a few glimpses into our everyday lives. These won’t make the front page headlines, but I think they’re worth recording.

Friends with Freddy. Our downstairs neighbors decorated for Halloween, draping the bear statues with fake spiderwebs and hanging spooky critters. They also put up a lifesize paper cutout of a Freddy Krueger lookalike, which bares its sharp teeth at us as we walk toward our door.

Whenever we walk past, Peeper says “Hi!” to Freddy in her cheeriest voice.

“You’ll know to worry if she starts saying ‘hi’ to her closet,” my brother said.

At the park - Ten Thousand Hour MamaPumped up at the park. Yesterday Peeper was a beast on the playground. She was struggling to get up the first big step on the play structure but didn’t ask for help (“hep!”), so I didn’t intervene. She kicked her leg up to shoulder height and somehow pulled herself onto the step.

She was too busy moving on to the next one to celebrate or even recognize her accomplishment.

She climbed up and down the rest of our time there but by the end, she was clearly getting tired. Instead of giving up, though, she’d grunt and yell with the effort of dragging her little body onto the first step. She reminded me of a bodybuilder or Maria Sharipova. Peeper’s a beast!

Toddler irony. Peeper recently discovered my underwear drawer. She opens my nightstand, drapes my bras around her neck and tosses my undies over her shoulder.

I figured that since she was happy and occupied, I’d change her diaper while she played there. When I came back with a clean dipes, I realized she had pooped—on my lingerie.

Well, I guess that’s kind of what it’s for.

The kicker: She’s done this twice in the last week. That’ll teach me.

Ten Thousand Hour MamaFamily plans. Verizon and AT&T got nothin’ on Annie’s. Peeper has been using anything and everything—a box of mac n’ cheese, a cup of crayons, the remote control, a package of oatmeal—to call her grandma.

“Nana, Nana,” she says while cradling the object near her ear.

We’ll see if messaging and data rates apply.

How did you record your kids’ everyday antics?